free resources
Behind our work to support behavioral health amid COVID-19

October 9, 2020Of the many ways COVID-19 is straining society, the rise of behavioral health challenges (i.e., mental and substance use disorders) has been among the most invisible so far. But according to McKinsey partner Erica Coe, that’s beginning to change. “More people are paying attention to mental health now amid the pandemic given spikes in drug overdoses, anxiety, depression, and insomnia,” she explains.

Supporting mental health for our society

Erica is a co-leader of our Center for Societal Benefit through Healthcare. Launched last summer, the center was established to improve healthcare globally by working in areas that are highly valuable to society—such as mental health, substance use, social determinants of health, maternal health, and rural health—but not necessarily highly invested in.

A core component of its work since launch and throughout the pandemic has been a partnership with the non-profit Shatterproof—which works to fight substance use disorder in the U.S. Our efforts with Shatterproof have focused on developing a national strategy to help reduce the stigma around opioid addiction, with the goal of ensuring that addiction is viewed and treated with the same urgency and compassion as other chronic conditions.

“Addressing mental and substance-use disorders feels that much more critical now under COVID-19 given how ubiquitous the challenges are,” says Erica. “It impacts all ages and backgrounds, and with serious implications for life expectancy, physical health, and quality of life.”

In addition to being a human tragedy across many fronts, COVID-19 is affecting nine out of ten employers across their workforce behavioral health and productivity. That impact can cost companies; for instance, the loss of productivity due to mental health conditions can be as high as $1 trillion per year. Making progress on this front won’t happen through one-off initiatives, Erica explains. “We're committed to sharing insights and results from the Center's projects in an external, open-access way, so others can replicate what proves effective” she says. “We know that to really move the needle across these issues that are so deeply relevant to society, we must collaborate around innovation.”